February 2008

Our Strong Veterinary Community

Dr. Gerhardt G. Schurig Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The Virginia Veterinary Conference was held this past weekend at the historic Hotel Roanoke and it was a resounding success in every respect. Several of our faculty members led continuing education programs, our Alumni Society held its annual meeting, and we had record numbers of students attending the event.

As a founding faculty member of this college in 1978, I always find it a bit rewarding to see how fully integrated our graduates have become within the Virginia and Maryland practice community. Given this, it is appropriate that our Alumni Society now holds its annual business meeting in conjunction with this meeting. During this year’s meeting, the gavel of leadership was passed from Doug Graham to Sara Salmon. I want to thank Doug for the enthusiastic leadership he has provided for the association, and commend him for the progress that has been made under his watch. I would also like to congratulate Sara upon her election as president, wish her well during her administration, and tell her that we are looking forward to working with the alumni association during the year ahead on programs to advance the profession.

Speaking of gavels and leadership, I would also like to recognize Dr. Lauren Keating for her year of service as president of the VVMA, and congratulate Dr. Steve Karras as the VVMA’s new president. Steve is a long-time friend of our college and has played a special role with the development of our highly successful mentor program. He has also been active with caring for police K-9 and other working dogs in our region, so it was especially appropriate that he was with us during a surprise ceremony that was held at the conclusion of our Alumni Society’s Board of Directors meeting. During this event, Deputies John Hoover and Brandt Gawor of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department presented us with a $40,000 check from an anonymous donor to complete the funding required to commission and construct our Law Enforcement K-9 Memorial Project. We expect to move forward quickly with this important project that recognizes these noble animals.

I was also grateful to see Maryland Veterinary Medical Association President Jack O’Mara at the Virginia Veterinary Conference. Dr. O’Mara has been a great supporter of our college and is working closely with us to advance several strategic initiatives. Our two state veterinary medical associations have many common interests and objectives, and with our college and our alumni association serving as growing catalysts, we can look forward to increased collaboration and mutual support in the future. Dr. John Brooks, our AVMA District 3 Representative was also on hand, helping ensure the vital linkage between the local and national levels of organized veterinary medicine.

Finally, I was very pleased to see Dr. Greg Hammer, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, recognized as the VVMA’s Paul F. Landis Veterinarian of the Year. Dr. Hammer has been a great friend of our college for many years, and he has worked closely with our state associations throughout his leadership work with the AVMA. Dr. Hammer is providing outstanding leadership for our profession during a very critical period in the history of veterinary medicine, and to see him so honored by his many friends in Virginia was inspiring.

The conference reminded me again of the many wonderful people who are working in our profession, and of the many things we can all accomplish by working together.

Sincerely,

Gerhardt G. Schurig
Dean


Meng Awarded Nearly $3 Million in Grants from NIH to Study Hepatitis E Virus

Dr. X. J. Meng

Dr. X.J. Meng (right) has been awarded two research grants totaling almost $3 million from the National Institutes of Health to study the hepatitis E virus. The ultimate goal of the work is to develop a vaccine to protect people and animals from Hepatitis E.

Dr. X.J. Meng, a professor of virology in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology at Virginia Tech, has been awarded two research grants totaling almost $3 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the hepatitis E virus (HEV). The ultimate goal of the work is to develop a vaccine to protect people and animals from Hepatitis E.

“This is an exceptional achievement,” said VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig. “The environment for NIH funding is more competitive than ever, so I think this makes a major statement about the world-class nature of Dr. Meng’s work.”

HEV is an important human pathogen, according to Dr. Meng. The disease caused by HEV, hepatitis E, is a major public health problem in developing countries in Asia and Africa, and in Mexico. Hepatitis E is also endemic in the United States and many other industrialized countries, according to Meng. Although the overall mortality associated with HEV infection is generally low (less than 1 percent), it can be as high as 28 percent in infected pregnant women. Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis E.

The major obstacle for hepatitis E research and vaccine development has been the lack of a practical animal model system for HEV research and the inability to propagate HEV in cell culture, explains Meng. With funding from NIH, Dr. Meng’s group recently discovered two HEV-related animal viruses in the United States: swine hepatitis E virus (swine HEV) from pigs, and avian hepatitis E virus (avian HEV) from chickens. It has since been demonstrated that swine HEV can cross species barriers and infect humans, and that human HEV can infect pigs. Hepatitis E is now regarded as a zoonotic disease.

With the discoveries of the two new animal viruses, Dr. Meng’s group quickly developed a pig model and a chicken model to study the hepatitis E virus. Prior to Meng’s discoveries of the two animal hepatitis E viruses, scientists were forced to use non-human primates in order to study the disease. Conducting HEV research with primates at one of the NIH regional primate centers is expensive and contains some ethical concerns, according to Meng, so developing the new animal models will be a major step forward in the research.

The first NIH grant, entitled “Mechanism of hepatitis E virus replication and pathogenesis,” conveys total funding of $1,561,797 and the co-investigators are Dr. Patrick G. Halbur, and Dr. Yao-Wei Huang. The second grant, entitled “A chicken model to study hepatitis E virus pathogenesis” includes funding of $1,266,300 and the co-investigators are Dr. F. William Pierson, Dr. Tanya LeRoith, and Dr. Yao-Wei Huang. Both grants begin on March 1, 2008 and will support four years of work.

The grants will enable researchers to learn more about the molecular mechanisms of HEV replication and pathogenesis by using pigs and chickens as animal model systems. Specifically, the researchers will study how HEV causes hepatitis, the gene(s) that are responsible for virulence, the mechanism(s) for cross-species infection by HEV, and how to attenuate the virus for vaccine development purpose. Ultimately, the researchers hope to develop a vaccine against this important human pathogen.

Meng’s laboratory in the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease (CMMID) is considered one of the world’s leading Hepatitis E virus research centers. Previously, he had received nearly $2 million dollars from the NIH to study the same virus. Meng currently chairs the Hepatitis E Virus study group on the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV).

Funded by the USDA and several private corporations, Meng’s lab also studies several economically important animal viruses including porcine circovirues, and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus. Recently, Meng’s lab successfully developed the first USDA fully-licensed vaccine, Suvaxyn® PCV2 One Dose™, against porcine circovirus associated diseases, an economically important swine disease worldwide. Virginia Tech has licensed the vaccine to Wyeth Inc and Fort Dodge Animal Health Inc, and the vaccine is currently on the U.S. and Canada markets, and has now begun to enter the global markets. The vaccine is saving millions of dollars each year for the swine industry.

Prior to joining the VMRCVM in 1999, Meng served as Senior Staff Fellow of the Molecular Hepatitis Section of the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Dr. Meng earned an M.D. from Binzhou Medical College in Binzhou, Shandong, People’s Republic of China; a M.S. in microbiology and immunology from the Virus Research Institute, Wuhan University College of Medicine, Wuhan, Hubei, Peoples Republic of China; and a Ph.D. in immunobiology from the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Preventive Medicine at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Ames, Iowa.

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VMRCVM Researcher Studying Brain Tumors in People and Animals

Dr. John Rossmeisl

Dr. John Rossmeisl, an assistant professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, has been awarded funding from the Wake Forest University Translational Science Institute to study innovative approaches for treating brain tumors in dogs, cats and humans. He is working with Wake Forest University Medical Center researchers to develop better therapeutic approaches for managing very serious forms of brain tumors called gliomas.

A veterinary neurologist on faculty in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech has been awarded funding from the Wake Forest University Translational Science Institute to study innovative approaches for treating brain tumors in dogs, cats and humans.

Dr. John Rossmeisl, an assistant professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (DSACS) in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, is working with Wake Forest University Medical Center researchers to develop better therapeutic approaches for managing very serious forms of brain tumors called gliomas.

Rossmeisl will work closely with a cluster of scientists and physicians at Wake Forest University and with VMRCVM veterinary pathologist Dr. John Robertson, director of the college’s Center for Comparative Oncology, on the project. The VMRCVM at Virginia Tech is a participating institution on a major translational research initiative at Wake Forest University funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“Gliomas are an aggressive and deadly form of brain cancer that affect dogs and people,” said Rossmeisl, who is board certified in veterinary neurology by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM). “Because there are so many similarities between clinical signs and pathobiology, the dog has emerged as an excellent model for studying gliomas in humans.”

Every year about 120,000 new cases of primary and secondary brain cancer are diagnosed, according to the National Cancer Institute. Much less is known about the incidence of brain tumors in domestic animals, according to Rossmeisl. Clinical signs associated with brain tumors in both people and animals can include seizures, abnormal behaviors, weakness of the limbs, loss of balance, blindness and other problems.

Gliomas arise from glial cells, according to Rossmeisl, which play numerous supporting roles for neurons, brain cells that control thought, sensations and motion. Glial cells outnumber neurons by a factor of about ten to one in the brain, and they play an essential role in creating the architecture and structure of the brain and supporting its functions.

There are several different specific types of glial cells, but two that interest Rossmeisl and colleagues most are called astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. Oncogenic abnormalities associated with each of these can lead to cancers called astrocytomas and oligodendrocytomas, according to Rossmeisl.

The most common approaches for managing these tumors involve surgical excision, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. But conventional radiation and chemotherapy affect normal cells in addition to the cancerous cells they target, so perfecting approaches that exclusively target the molecular abnormalities present in each individual’s cancer cells and spare healthy cells is a major thrust in modern oncology.

To develop more precisely targeted systems for administering therapeutic agents to cancer cells, Rossmeisl and his colleagues are attempting to further establish the molecular similarity of human and canine gliomas.

Scientists know that when astrocytomas spontaneously arise in people, they over-express three proteins: interleukin 13 receptor alpha2 (IL-13R), which is a cancer testis tumor like agent; EphA2, a tyrosine kinase receptor; and fos-related antigen 1, an AP-1 transcription factor.

Rossmeisl and colleagues working in the VMRCVM’s Center for Comparative Oncology have opened a clinical trial and are currently enrolling animals from around the region that have been positively diagnosed with a brain mass consistent with the appearance of a glioma on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The researchers will be studying tissue samples from affected animals in search of these proteins that are not otherwise present in normal brain tissues. Identifying these proteins could further document the dog’s suitability as a model for studying pre-clinical human disease, according to Rossmeisl, and ultimately lead to the development of more precisely targeted methods for managing these tumors.

Another portion of the work is focused on the development of powerful new cancer treatments. Through a process known as convection enhanced delivery (CED), the researchers are removing the diseased tissues and testing the application of a proprietary experimental compound. This agent is used to “bathe” the margins of the area in which the tumor was removed and it has been designed in a way that it will only bind with receptors in tumor cells expressing abnormal proteins.

“Their potential value is tremendous to humans and dogs with cancer,” said Rossmeisl. These treatments may represent a significant advancement in prolonging survival in dogs and people with these highly aggressive cancers.”

The researchers will also be looking at improved processes for performing radiation therapy on brain tumors in dogs.

“Currently, the standard of care in veterinary radiotherapy is fractional radiotherapy delivered with a linear accelerator,” explained Rossmeisl. This form of radiation therapy is typically delivered with frequent administration of relatively small doses of radiation multiple days per week over several weeks. Though it can be fairly precisely targeted, it can affect tissues unrelated to the tumor.

The grant will enable the researchers to perfect protocols for treating canine patients with stereotactic radiosurgery – more commonly known as the “gamma knife.” The gamma knife uses a specialized head-frame to target an exactingly focused beam of killing radiation with pin-point accuracy on the tumor itself. As opposed to a traditional course of radiotherapy that can take weeks, the gamma knife can accomplish the task in one session lasting a few hours.

For more information regarding the CCGT study, view the CCGT General Information Form, or contact Luann-Mack Drinkard (clinical research technician) at lmackdr@vt.edu or by phone at (540) 231-4621, or the study co-director, Dr. John Rossmeisl at jrossmei@vt.edu.

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Pamplin, VMRCVM Develop Innovative Business Development Program for Veterinarians

Pamplin & VMRCVM

The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and the R.B. Pamplin College of Business have partnered to offer an intensive four-module “Veterinary Practice Business Management Program.” The four-month program, which will get underway April 3, is designed to help veterinarians and practice managers hone their skills in a variety of business essentials.

Business training is more important than ever in running the operational side of a veterinary practice, but veterinary medical college training programs can devote only modest curricular effort toward teaching doctors about the business aspects of a veterinary practice.

Recognizing that need, Virginia Tech has created an intensive four-module “Veterinary Practice Business Management Program” designed to help veterinarians and practice managers hone their skills in leadership, strategic planning, marketing, accounting and other business essentials.

“There is a critical need for this kind of program in our profession,” said Dr. Gerhardt Schurig, dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM), adding that major studies conducted over the past ten years have all called for better business training for veterinary students and practicing professionals. “The future well-being of the profession and its ability to meet society’s needs is dependent upon a stable economic infrastructure.”

One of the most pressing current problems facing the profession is the increasing gap between starting salaries and educational debt, according to VMRCVM Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Dr. Grant Turnwald. “Because tuition will continue to increase and there is a limit to the amount that fees can be increased, developing a more efficient business model is becoming increasingly important for the future of the profession,” said Turnwald.

The Management and Professional Development Program in the R. B. Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech has developed the program in collaboration with the VMRCVM. The four-month program gets underway on April 3rd and will be presented during one weekend a month over a four- month period at the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center in Roanoke, according to Frank Smith, director of Pamplin’s Management and Professional Development program. The program is being partially supported by Hill's Pet Products, Inc.

“The key strength of this program is the way we have taken some of our leading faculty in management, marketing and accounting and teamed them up with some of the region’s most successful veterinarians to develop a precisely focused business development program for the veterinary profession,” said Smith, who has been working on the development of the project with Turnwald and Virginia Tech Business Technology Center Director Dick Daugherty for almost two years.

Designed for both generalist and specialty practices in the Mid-Atlantic region, the certificate-based program is comprehensive in scope and covers topics ranging from business strategy and budgeting to customer relations and regulatory and legal issues. The cohort-based course will explore “best practices” and common problems through the use of numerous case studies, according to Smith, and every participant will work with course faculty members to develop a business plan for their practice as a capstone project.

“We’ve worked very closely with the veterinary profession on this program to make sure that what we are teaching is what they need and our team is very excited to bring this project to the marketplace,” said Smith, who noted that the program has been officially endorsed by the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association and the Delaware Veterinary Medical Association.

Responding to threats identified in the mid 1990’s that included salary stagnation, spiraling student debt, and financial challenges related to the inter-generational transfer of practices, leaders from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) teamed up to fund a major study designed to critically evaluate the economic foundations of the profession in 1997.

This comprehensive examination of the profession’s financial underpinnings came to be known as the landmark “KPMG Study.” It made a number of recommendations, including the need for the nation’s colleges of veterinary medicine to incorporate more business training in the curriculum and for existing practitioners to improve the business operations of their veterinary practices, most of which operate as classic small businesses.

As a follow-up to the KPMG study, the National Commission for Veterinary Economic Issues (NCVEI) was formed. The commission has created a web-based national practice bench-marking system that assembled massive amounts of comparative data that has been very successful in helping veterinary practices improve their market position, according to Turnwald. The commission also developed a template for business and professional development courses in veterinary schools.

But there are few, if any, courses like the “Veterinary Practice Business Management Program” that combine leading business scholars with successful veterinarians on a program delivered through a comprehensive university-based continuing education program, according to Smith.

The four-module program includes all classes and materials; breakfasts, lunches and dinners; graduation banquet and a framed certificate of completion. Tuition for the four-month program is $7500. A portion of the revenues generated through the program will support veterinary student scholarships. For more information, contact Frank Smith at fmsmith@vt.edu or phone 540-231-5566. Additional information is available at www.vetbus.pamplin.vt.edu

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Virginia Farm Bureau Honors Dean Schurig

Dean Gerhardt Schurig

Dean Gerhardt Schurig (right) receives a plaque from Virginia Farm Bureau President Wayne Pryor (left) during a recent statewide conference held for county Farm Bureau presidents in Roanoke. Schurig was recognized for his “Distinguished Service to Agriculture.”

Virginia Farm Bureau President Wayne Pryor recognized VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig for “Distinguished Service to Agriculture” during a recent statewide conference held for county Farm Bureau presidents in Roanoke.

Schurig was presented with a commemorative plaque following an address he shared with the group concerning the urgent shortage of food animal veterinarians in the United States.

Several recent studies have indicated that there is a critical shortage of food animal veterinarians and the situation is growing worse every year, Schurig told the group, adding that there were a variety of cultural, demographic and economic reasons behind the shortage.

The shortage is critical because rural families and their farm animals are being under-served by the profession, and because farm animals across the country must be carefully watched for signs of naturally occurring or possibly deliberately introduced infectious diseases.

“The whole veterinary public health infrastructure is in jeopardy and the consequences for rural America are profound,” said Schurig. “Surveillance of livestock health and welfare in large parts of the country is left unaddressed.”

The percentage of exclusively large animal practices has dropped from 4.5 percent to 1.7 percent from 1990 to 2006, according to Schurig. Many veterinary students pursue companion animal veterinary practice as a result of the demise of the family farm and predominance of urban and suburban lifestyles.

Rising educational debt is another issue, he said. The average educational debt for a veterinary student studying at an “in-state” school is $100,000; for an out-of-state student, it is $125,000.

Veterinarians working in rural practices often do not earn as much money as they do in urban and suburban practices.

Schurig detailed some of the measures that the college is taking to encourage students to consider careers in food animal medicine. For example, the college offers more than $200,000 in scholarships to encourage veterinary students to pursue careers in food animal medicine.

Schurig also underscored the need to increase the number of veterinary school graduates by increasing the instructional capacities of the nation’s 28 colleges of veterinary medicine.

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Leaders Meet to Discuss Rising Educational Debt for Veterinarians

VBMA at NAVC

Representatives from the VMRCVM recently joined others from veterinary academia, industry and lending institutions to discuss the rising cost of educational debt for new veterinarians. The discrepancy between the cost of education and the starting salaries for recent graduates is one of the most pressing issues currently facing veterinary medicine.

Nearly 250 leaders in veterinary academia, industry, and lending organizations recently gathered with over 100 student leaders from the Veterinary Business Management Association (VBMA) at the North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando, Florida to discuss the rising amount of educational debt accumulated by students during their time in veterinary school.

“Total costs for a veterinary education today have skyrocketed for resident, nonresident, and private veterinary school students over the last 5 years,” said James F. Wilson, DVM, JD, during his opening remarks.

While costs have risen dramatically, salaries for recent graduates have not kept up, according to Wilson. Overall, educational debt has risen at the rate of 7.1 percent per year over the past 27 years while starting salaries have only risen 4.34 percent per year, he said.

The average educational debt for new veterinarians is estimated at more than $100,000 and can be as much as high as $165,000 to $220,000 if the student attends a state-run institution as a non-resident. Beginning salaries for new practitioners average $60,000.

“The discussion had eye opening statistics about how much danger the profession could be in, and how potential veterinary students who would be great for our profession might not be able to afford to become veterinarians in the future,” said Cynthia Johnson (’11) who attended the conference.

Other VMRCVM students who attended the meeting included: Tonya Sparks (’09), Mike Hickey (’09), Heather Groch (’10), Victoria Long (’11), Lauren White (’11), Michelle Larsen (’11), and Amy Revenis (’11). VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig and Dr. Grant Turnwald, associate dean for academic affairs, also represented the college.

The rising educational debt to salary ratio is considered one of the most serious issues facing the long term stability and growth of the veterinary profession and a number of studies and programs have been devised to examine the problem and consider solutions, according to Dr. Turnwald, who commended the Veterinary Business Management Association for their work in this area.

“Of special importance will be the future ability of all employers of DVMs to pay salaries sufficient to enable new graduates to service their educational debt,” said Turnwald, who noted that tuition will likely continue to increase and that there is a limit to the amount that fees can be increased.

The discussions will continue during the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) annual conference in Tampa, Florida on March 27-30 and during the American Veterinary Medical Association’s annual convention in New Orleans, Louisiana to be held July 19-22.

The VMRCVM’s chapter of the Veterinary Business Management Association is among the newest of the college’s student clubs and organizations, according to Dr. Turnwald. But the fact that it has rapidly become the largest student organization outside of the “umbrella” Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association makes a strong statement about how seriously VMRCVM students view the importance of the business challenges faced by the veterinary profession, he said.

Tonya Sparks, the past-president of the college’s VBMA chapter, was elected to serve as the national president of the veterinary student organization and recently completed her term of office.

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Treatments for Upper Respiratory Disease Available at Equine Medical Center

Respiratory Disease Treatments

Upper respiratory disease can be dangerous to an equine athlete’s health and can also inhibit performance during competition. Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medicine Center offers a variety of treatments for correcting disorders of the upper respiratory tract.

Labored breathing, flared nostrils and strange noises during exercise are symptomatic of upper respiratory disease in horses. These conditions can be detrimental to an equine athlete’s health and can also inhibit performance during competition. At Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, a variety of treatments are available for correcting disorders of the upper respiratory system and improving the odds of performance success.

“Respiratory disease is probably second only to lameness in terms of performance limiting illnesses in horses,” said Dr. Harold McKenzie, assistant professor of equine medicine. “The function of the respiratory tract is gas exchange — getting the oxygen in, getting the carbon dioxide out — so anything that limits the flow of air is likely to impair athletic ability.”

Although all horses can suffer from diseases affecting the nasal passage, larynx, soft palate, pharynx and sinuses that comprise a horse’s upper airway system, these conditions predominantly affect athletes competing in racing, dressage, hunting, jumping, polo, driving and other disciplines.

“Performance horses go out and train at high speeds and breathe at a faster rate to keep up with oxygen debt,” said Dr. Nat White, Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and Director. “Any problems with air flow due to soft tissue damage or control of the upper airway movement can cause increased noise during breathing and a lack of oxygen reaching the lungs.”

The most common upper airway complication that Dr. Ken Sullins, professor of equine surgery, has seen in his patients is laryngeal hemiplegia, also known as “roaring,” which is acquired as a result of trauma to the left recurrent laryngeal nerve. Other illnesses that frequently reduce air flow include dorsal displacement of the soft palate, pharyngeal collapse, airway obstruction, pharyngeal lymphoid hyperplasia, entrapped epiglottis and arytenoid chondritis.

“The causes vary from inflammatory conditions to degeneration of nerves that control upper airway function,” said Sullins. “The upper airway is very sensitive to irritation and significant issues stem from airway turbulence during exercise when the throat is inflamed.”

According to Sullins, when a patient at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center is presented with an upper respiratory problem, the diagnosis is usually based on an analysis of the animal’s health history, a physical exam, monitoring during exercise on a high-speed treadmill, and imaging of the upper airway system by ultrasound and standing video endoscopy. Other imaging technologies, including nuclear scintigraphy, ultrasound and digital radiography, may be also be used if further visuals are required.

“If the cause cannot be identified during the endoscopy, then we put the horse on a treadmill and monitor them while they run,” said Sullins.

Although medical therapy is available for some of these maladies, surgical intervention is often required.

“Fundamentally, most, if not all, upper respiratory problems are mechanical in nature and therefore tend to be treated through structural repairs,” said McKenzie. “So if something is obstructing the flow of air, you can suture it back or remove it and the problem goes away.”

Further research is needed in order to pinpoint the specific causes of many upper airway complications in performance horses. However, the specialists who study the diseases have their own theories.

“There seems to be a geographical component for some laryngeal infections,” said Sullins. “We suspect that it might have something to do with racetrack surfaces or air quality in specific areas. Certainly horses that race on turf have reduced incidence of this type of problem.”

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Virginia Veterinary Conference

Dr. Greg Hammer

Dr. Greg Hammer (center), president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, was awarded the “Paul F. Landis Veterinarian of the Year Award” during the recent Virginia Veterinary Conference. Also pictured are Dr. Steve Karras (left), the new president of the VVMA, and Dr. Tom Massie (right), the new president-elect of the VVMA.

The annual Virginia Veterinary Conference held at the Hotel Roanoke February 21-24, 2008 attracted about 550 attendees, including 230 veterinarians, according to VVMA Executive Director Robin Schmitz. More than 120 VMRCVM students also attended, Schmitz said, which is about twice as many as last year.

The event included scores of continuing education programs, a presentation by Howard Rubin on the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues (NCVEI), a motivational presentation entitled “The Difference is Diversity, the Key is Communication” by veterinarian and former Miss America Debbye Turner, an address by Dr. Greg Hammer, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association and numerous receptions and social events.

During the Saturday evening Awards Banquet, the VVMA recognized a variety of individuals for their excellence in different areas of the profession.

Dr. Greg Hammer was awarded the “Paul F. Landis Veterinarian of the Year Award.” Dr. Lisa Miller, a past president of the VVMA and current AVMA Delegate, was recognized with the “Distinguished Virginia Veterinarian Award.” The “Mentor of the Year Award” was presented to Dr. Rocky Deutsch (’85).

The “Friend of the VVMA Award” was presented to Roanoke attorney Clark Worthy in appreciation for his legal assistance, the “Veterinary Service Award” was awarded to Dr. Sam Tate for his leadership with the state’s SART program, and Margaret Morton, deputy editor of Leesburg Today newspaper was presented the “Excellence in Veterinary Reporting Award” for her work in writing about the state’s EHV-1 outbreak in early 2007.

New officers were also voted in. Dr. Steve Karras of Cave Spring Veterinary Clinic in Roanoke is the new president; Dr. Tom Massie ('95) of Rose Hill Veterinary Practice in Washington, Virginia was elected president-elect; Dr. Bill Tyrrell, ('92) of Chesapeake Veterinary Cardiology Associates in Leesburg was elected vice-president; and Dr. Kelly Gottschalk of Wellesley Animal Hospital in Richmond was elected secretary-treasurer.

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Phi Zeta Manuscript Competition

Dr. Megan Daugherty & Dr. Mohamed Seleem

Drs. Megan Daugherty (left) and Mohamed Seleem (right) were the winners of the college’s Phi Zeta manuscript competition. This if the first time the competition has been held in the VMRCVM.

Winners have been announced in the college’s Phi Zeta manuscript competition, according to Dr. Michael Leib, professor, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (DSACS), and president of the college’s Chi Chapter of Phi Zeta. Phi Zeta is the national veterinary honor society.

The winner in the clinical sciences category is Dr. Megan Daugherty, an internal medicine specialist in private practice in Richmond who completed a residency program in internal medicine at the college in 2006. Her paper, which is entitled “Safety and Efficacy of Oral Low-Volume Sodium Phosphate Bowel Preparation for Colonoscopy in Dogs,” has been accepted for publication in the Journal of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

Winner in the basic sciences category is Dr. Mohamed Seleem, who completed his Ph.D. with Dr. Nammalwar Sriranganathan, for his paper entitled “Enhanced expression, detection and purification of recombinant proteins using RNA stem loop and tandem fusion tags.” He is now working as a post-doc in the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases (CMMID).

This is the first time that the Phi Zeta manuscript competiton has been held in the college in several years, Leib said. The papers have each been submitted for consideration in the national Phi Zeta manuscript competition, according to Leib.

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K-9 Memorial Project Hits Fundraising Goal

K-9 Memorial Fund

Dean Gerhardt Schurig (left) accepts a check in the amount of $40,000 from Deputies Brandt Gawor (center) and John Hoover (right) with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department to support the law Enforcement K-9 Memorial Statue project. The anonymous gift will allow organizers to begin efforts to commission a sculptor to design the statue which will be placed on the campus of the VMRCVM.

Thanks to a $40,000 gift from an anonymous donor, the Law Enforcement K-9 Memorial Statue project will soon become a reality on the campus of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech.

Deputies John Hoover and Brandt Gawor with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department presented the check to VMRCVM Dean Gerhardt Schurig during a brief ceremony held in conjunction with the Virginia Veterinary Conference.

Receipt of the gift means that the committee organizing the program can begin efforts to commission a sculptor to create a statue of a police dog. The proposed memorial statue will be installed on the veterinary college’s Virginia Tech campus.

The fund-raising campaign was officially launched in October 2005 and donations have been received from a variety of individuals and organizations.

Dean Schurig thanked the officers and the anonymous donor and said that the college was looking forward to moving forward with the project.

The sculpture could be installed and dedicated during Spring 2009, according to VMRCVM Communications Director Jeff Douglas, who has been working with Hoover since the inception of the project.

Hoover, a certified master trainer with the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA) and a master trainer with the Virginia Police Work Dog Association (VPWDA), has worked tirelessly to spear-head efforts to create the memorial.

“It’s tough to find the words that describe the incredible role these dogs play in law enforcement and public safety,” said Hoover, who frequently conducts training sessions for police handlers throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. “They put their lives on the line every day, just like our officers. They are partners and they are heroes.”

Police dogs and their handlers must undergo extensive training and can earn a variety of certifications. For example, the North American Police Work Dog Association provides certifications in the categories of patrol or criminal apprehension, accelerant, bloodhound, cadaver, explosive, narcotics, tracking and trailing, utility and wildlife.

There are an estimated 250-300 working police dogs in Virginia, according to Hoover. Hoover said that about a half-dozen animals have been killed in the line of duty since they began playing an active role in Virginia law enforcement about 35 years ago.

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VMRCVM's Electronic Stallion Service Auction Benefits Equine Reproductive Research

Stallion Service Auction

For the third year in a row, the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech is using an internet-based stallion service auction to benefit equine reproductive programs in the college. The Stallion Auction has raised approximately $12,000 over the past two years. For more information on the auction, to place a bid or to offer your stallion for stud services, please visit the college's web site.

For the third year in a row, an equine veterinarian in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech is using an internet-based stallion service auction to benefit equine reproductive programs in the college.

The electronic auction was developed by Dr. John Dascanio, an associate professor in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (DLACS), and a board certified equine reproductive specialist (theriogenologist).

The equine breeding season generally runs from the middle of February until the middle of June, Dascanio says, so the auction began accepting bids January 1, 2008 and will continue to do so until March 15, 2008. Any stallion breeding slots not purchased by the closing date will be sold at 60 percent of the full price on a first come first served basis until May 1. Horse owners who wish to donate stallion services, which will probably cost between $500 and $2000 for the horses registered on the site, simply download a registration form from the Stallion Service Auction website and submit the form to Dr. Dascanio.

Auction participants bid up the services for a particular stallion until the winning bid is announced at the end of the auction. The entire bid then goes to support the college's equine reproductive research, education and service programs.

The mares' owners agree to pay all normally related costs associated with the breeding, including the collection, storage and shipment of semen, pregnancy and ultrasound examinations and other costs. With the exception of Thoroughbreds, which are bred through natural cover per regulations established by The Jockey Club, most horses have the opportunity to be bred through artificial insemination, Dascanio said.

"Hopefully, all parties will benefit," said Dascanio. "The stallion owners will get a tax credit for the amount of the final bid, the mare owners may receive a stud fee below the stallion's normal cost, and money will be raised to support equine reproductive programs at the college."

One of the reasons Dascanio was motivated to create the program is because of the relative shortage of funds to support equine reproduction. Many organizations fund colic, lameness, laminitis and other disorders, but few specifically support equine reproductive work. The Stallion Auction raised approximately $12,000 over the past two years.

A scholarship has been awarded to a senior veterinary student using funds raised from the auction. Currently, an educational website on equine reproduction is being designed for horse owners, veterinary students and veterinarians (www.horserepro.com) with auction proceeds.

For more information on the auction, to place a bid or to offer your stallion for stud services, please see the college's web site at http://eqrepro.vetmed.vt.edu/.

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Easter Egg Hunt at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine

OTS Easter Egg Hunt

Omega Tau Sigma (OTS) will host an Easter egg hunt on Saturday, March 8 on the college’s Blacksburg campus. The event starts at 9 a.m. and is free and open to the public.

Omega Tau Sigma (OTS), a service fraternity in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, will host an Easter egg hunt on Saturday, March 8 on the college’s campus located on Duckpond Drive in Blacksburg.

The event starts at 9 a.m. and is free and open to the public.

The Easter Bunny will also be on hand to greet visitors.

Participating children only need to bring a basket or other container to hold any eggs they may find. All other materials will be provided.

In case of extreme inclement weather, the event will be canceled.

For more information, please contact Sarah Frank at safrank@vt.edu

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Hodgson Helping Equine Health Around the World

Dr. David Hodgson

Dr. David Hodgson is helping to bring training and technology to equine veterinarians around the globe through his work with the World Equine Veterinary Association (WEVA). WEVA’s mission is to promote equine welfare by providing information and training in modern equine veterinary medicine in emerging and less-developed areas of the world.

Advancements in training and technology have elevated the quality of equine veterinary medicine practiced in many industrialized countries. But that high quality of care is not available in many areas of the world.

The World Equine Veterinary Association (WEVA) is working hard to correct that problem, according to Dr. David Hodgson, Large Animal Clinical Sciences head of the Department of (DLACS) in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech.

As a member of WEVA’s board of directors and Scientific Program Chair, Hodgson is playing an important role in WEVA’s efforts to extend the reach of modern veterinary medicine to horses around the world.

WEVA was founded in 1985 as a branch of the World Veterinary Organization. The mission of WEVA is to promote equine welfare by providing information and training related to modern equine veterinary medicine in emerging and less-developed areas of the world.

“The vast majority of horses in the world are in countries without the resources that places like America and other knowledge and economic-rich countries enjoy,” explains Hodgson. “Without organizations such as WEVA, many of the veterinarians in these countries would not have access to the benefits of modern equine veterinary medicine.”

Every two years, WEVA, partnering with local veterinary associations, hosts week-long conventions that feature equine professionals from around the world speaking on the latest treatments and research in the industry, as well as on topics specific to the region. Localities submit proposals to the board, which then selects the host country.

Hodgson participated in WEVA’s recent convention in Moscow, Russia, where in addition to his duties as a board member, he also presented several research papers. WEVA also provides smaller, intermediate meetings that are held by local associations throughout the year. To date, these have been held in India and Chile with plans to visit many other countries in the next few years.

While being a part of this organization involves hard work and dedication on the part of Hodgson and his fellow board members, it also comes with great benefits. “To travel to these countries and see the people and animals and the impact we are having on their quality of life is hugely rewarding,” said Hodgson.

As scientific program chair, Hodgson is responsible for organizing the next conference which will be held in Brazil in 2009.

WEVA is led by a board of fourteen members--twelve representatives from around the world as well as the two immediate past presidents. Hodgson was elected to the board two years ago as the Australasia representative while he was on faculty at the University of Sydney. He became a North American representative after his move to the United States in July.

Hodgson earned a B.V.Sc. and a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney. He is a diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) and a Fellow in both the Australasian College of Biomedical Scientists and in the American College of Sports Medicine.

In addition to his immediate past position as a professor and director of clinical teaching at the University of Sydney, Hodgson also served as head of the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences and veterinary hospital director at that organization. He has also held positions at the University of Pretoria in South Africa and Washington State University.

Hodgson has published numerous academic papers and has received many awards for his work, including the Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation's Equine Researcher of the Year which is awarded by the Australian government to the country's leading contributer to Equine Research.

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Ricco Joins Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences

Dr. Carolina Ricco

Dr. Carolina Ricco has joined the college as an assistant professor of anesthesiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. She comes to the VMRCVM from the University of Minnesota where she completed a three-year residency program and earned her Master of Science degree in veterinary anesthesiology.

Dr. Carolina Ricco has joined the college as an assistant professor of anesthesiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (DSACS). She comes to the VMRCVM from the University of Minnesota where she completed a three-year residency program and earned her Master of Science degree in veterinary anesthesiology.

"We are very pleased to welcome Dr. Carolina Ricco to the college," said Dr. Greg Daniel, head of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. "Dr. Ricco comes to us with considerable training and experience in anesthesiology. She has a passion for teaching and her expertise in anesthesia will complement the quality of our anesthesia section which plays a vital role in the operation of both the large and small animal hospitals."

Ricco earned her DVM in 2001 from the Sao Paulo State University’s Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science School in Brazil. She was second out of 1600 candidates during the admission process for her graduating class. After earning her DVM, Ricco completed a two-year residency at the school before accepting her position in Minnesota.

"I am very happy to be here," said Ricco of her arrival at the VMRCVM. "My goals for this year are to get acquainted with the school and the hospital, pass the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiology Boards, and get my research started."

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Careers in Veterinary Medicine Program Presented at College

4-H Logo

For the 17th consecutive year, "Careers in Veterinary Medicine," a 4-H series that provides a glimpse of the modern veterinary profession, is being presented on the VMRCVM’s Virginia Tech campus. The series began on February 11 and will continue until March 17.

For the 17th consecutive year, "Careers in Veterinary Medicine," a 4-H series that provides a glimpse of the modern veterinary profession, is being presented on the VMRCVM’s Virginia Tech campus. The series began on February 11 and will continue until March 17.

Sponsored by Seven Seas Veterinary Services, the VMRCVM, the Wildlife Center of Virginia and the Montgomery County 4-H Extension Office, the course is being held on Monday evenings from 7-8 p.m.

All classes will be held in the VMRCVM's Classroom 102, which is located across from the Veterinary Medicine Library. Attendees will enter via the Veterinary Teaching Hospital entrance and proceed to the left down the hall to the classroom.

The program, which has been organized by Dr. Keath Marx (VMRCVM, '89), owner of Seven Seas Veterinary Services, provides registrants with an opportunity to learn about a variety of topics in the profession and culminates with a guided tour of the veterinary college complex at Virginia Tech. The first three sessions gave participants a look at wildlife and conservation medicine, veterinary parasitology, and small animal radiology and ultrasound.

"Veterinary medicine is playing an ever-growing role in the world we live in," said Dr. Marx, who has led the course for the past 16 years. "I think it's important that we help children learn as much as they can about this profession as they begin thinking about what they want to do with the rest of their lives."

Pre-registration is required and class size is limited to 40 children. Adult escorts or sponsors are invited if space is available at each of the events. Registrants need not be current members of 4-H.

The remaining scheduled topics and speakers include:

March 3 - Small Animal Medicine Intake at the Veterinary Hospital - Dr. Ed Monroe, professor of internal medicine and Dr. Natalie Inteeworn, internal medicine resident, VMRCVM

March 10 - Small Animal Ophthalmology – Dr. Phillip Picket, professor of ophthalmology, Dr. Christine Sandberg, ophthalmology resident and Ms. Betsy Snyder, small animal clinic staff, VMRCVM

March 17- Tour of Veterinary Hospital and College - Mr. Ted Smusz, communications, VMRCVM

For more information on the programs or on how to register, contact Dr. Keath Marx at drkeath@marx.ws

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Researchers Receive USDA Grant to Study the Function of Biofilm in Bovine Respiratory Disease

Dr. Thomas J. Inzana

Dr. Thomas J. Inzana, the Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Professor of Bacteriology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, has been awarded a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to study the role biofilm plays in the development of Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex (BRDC). BRDC is a particularly troublesome disease that remains a major economic problem, despite years of extensive research.

Dr. Thomas J. Inzana, the Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Professor of Bacteriology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology (DBSP) in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, has been awarded a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to study the role biofilm plays in the development of Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex (BRDC).

The $374,000 grant will allow Inzana and his fellow investigators, Drs. Indra Sandal and William Scarratt, to study the role of biofilm in the virulence of Histophilus somni (Haemophilus somnus), which is one of the bacteria responsible for BRDC.

“If we can understand the protective or disease-enhancing effect a biofilm provides to H. somni then we can develop more successful and efficacious vaccines for this and other biofilm diseases,” said Inzana.

A biofilm is an organized community of bacteria that forms a glue-like substance that adheres to a variety of surfaces.

The plaque on your teeth is a biofilm, as is the slime that often forms on meat that has been left out too long. While some biofilms are harmless, they can also cause a variety of diseases in humans and animals, explains Inzana. Middle-ear infections and cystic fibrosis are both examples of biofilm diseases that can form in humans.

A biofilm can be particularly hard to treat because the bacteria are encased in an organized matrix that forms a protective architecture, resulting in enhanced bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

In bovines, BRDC is a particularly troublesome disease that remains a major economic problem, despite years of extensive research, according to Inzana. BRDC accounts for over 60 percent of all deaths in feedlot cattle, said Inzana, which leads to major financial losses for producers.

Inzana and his fellow researchers believe H. somni naturally occurs in a biofilm state within the bovine host. This may cause H. somni to be more resistant to treatment and host defenses because of the protection the biofilm provides. If left untreated, the bacteria can spread beyond the animal’s respiratory tract into the myocardium and the brain causing further damage and eventually death.

While vaccines against H. somni are currently on the market, none have proven to be adequately protective. Inzana and his team believe this is because of the lack of attention previously given to the role of biofilm in the disease process.

“Our goal is to understand the molecular basis for biofilm formation and to identify ways to prevent or treat the biofilm” said Inzana.

Inzana is quick to point out that the benefits of the research he and his colleagues are doing are not exclusive to bovine health. The study has the potential to advance the understanding of other biofilm diseases in animals and in humans, and it creates the possibility of using the bovine as a model to study human biofilm diseases, particularly those arising from host-specific bacteria, he said.

Thomas J. Inzana is the Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Professor of Bacteriology at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine’s Virginia Tech campus, and the associate vice-president for research programs in the Office of the Vice-President for Research. He is also the director of clinical microbiology for the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Teaching Hospital. In addition, from 1998-2002, Inzana served as coordinator of the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases (CMMID).

During his career, Inzana has also served as a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and SUNY at Buffalo School of Medicine. Inzana’s research interests are the development of improved vaccines for bacterial pathogens and biowarfare agents, the development of improved diagnostic tests for bacteria and biowarfare agents, the molecular basis of bacterial capsules and lipopolysaccharides in bacterial virulence, and the host immune response to bacterial pathogens.

He also studies the molecular basis for pathogenesis of Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, Francisella tularensis, and Burkholderia mallei. Inzana is board certified by the American Board of Medical Microbiology and Public Health and a Fellow of the American Academy for Microbiology. He is a member of the American Society for Microbiology, the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians, the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Diseases, and the International Endotoxin and Innate Immunity Society.

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Sara Salmon Elected President of VMRCVM Alumni Society

Sara Salmon

Dr. Sara Salmon (’98) (left) has succeeded Dr. Doug Graham ('98) (right) as president of the VMRCVM’s Alumni Society. She was installed during a recent meeting held in conjunction with the Virginia Veterinary Conference at the Hotel Roanoke.

A new president and president-elect of the college's Alumni Society were formally installed during a recent meeting of the board held in conjunction with the "Virginia Veterinary Conference" at the Hotel Roanoke.

Dr. Sara Salmon (’98) succeeded Dr. Doug Graham, ('98) as president, and Dr. Michael Watts ('00) was installed as president-elect of the alumni Society.

Salmon, a Charlottesville practitioner who has recently conducted an internship in emergency and critical care, is with Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service, Inc. Watts works with Clevengers Corner Veterinary Care in Amissville, Virginia.

Dean Schurig briefed the group on recent activities at the college and made a brief presentation on the college’s capital expansion plans.

Director of Alumni Relations and Student Affairs Lynn Young briefed the board on recent alumni programming and discussed plans for the future.

Details about upcoming alumni activities can be found on the Alumni Society's home page on the college web site.

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Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center to Host Hokie Volunteer Day

Equine Medical Center

Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center will host a Hokie Volunteer Day for alumni from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm on Friday, April 11. This day of service is designed to allow participants to fulfill their 10 hours of pledged community service for the university’s VT-ENGAGE effort through the planting of Hokie flowers and shrubbery.

Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center will host a Hokie Volunteer Day for alumni from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm on Friday, April 11. This day of service is designed to allow participants to fulfill their 10 hours of pledged community service for the university’s VT-ENGAGE effort through the planting of Hokie flowers and shrubbery. A pizza luncheon will be served.

Alumni who are interested in participating in this event should R.S.V.P. to Marjorie Musick by e-mail at mzmusick@vt.edu or by phone at (703) 771-6881 prior to Wednesday, April 9. The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center is located at 17690 Old Waterford Rd. in Leesburg. Directions are available online at www.equinemedicalcenter.net.

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Your Horse’s Health: Diagnosing Equine Cardiovascular Disease

By Anne Desrochers DMV, Diplomate ACVIM

Dr. Desrochers

Dr. Anne Desrochers uses an echocardiogram to examine an equine patient’s heart. Desrochers believes a horse’s heart may be the most important muscle in its entire body. Any disease affecting it should be promptly diagnosed and monitored carefully.

Dr. Desrochers is a clinical assistant professor in equine internal medicine at Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center.

A horse’s heart may be the most important muscle in its entire body. As the pump for the cardiovascular system, which includes the heart and a closed system of blood vessels called arteries, veins, and capillaries, it is responsible for the rapid delivery of nutrients and oxygen to all of the horse’s tissues and organs. In addition, the cardiovascular system plays a crucial role in the elimination of waste products, distribution of hormones, immune response, blood clotting, and body temperature regulation.

Heart disease can affect horses of all ages and breeds. It can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired (developed later in life). The most common abnormalities involve the valves and muscle of the heart. Cardiac problems can manifest clinically in different ways, including poor performance, exercise intolerance, presence of a heart murmur, irregular heartbeats, distended veins, peripheral swelling, poor growth, weakness, or collapse. The most frequently diagnosed cardiac abnormalities in equine medicine include congenital anomalies, degenerative or infectious valvular diseases, diseases of the muscle or external envelope of the heart (pericardium), congestive heart failure, and arrhythmias.

The importance of the heart cannot be overstated and any disease affecting it should be promptly diagnosed and monitored carefully.

In-depth evaluation of horses suffering from heart disease typically requires advanced and accurate diagnostic aids to determine the underlying problem and to recommend appropriate treatment. The internal medicine group at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center provides cutting-edge diagnostic and therapeutic services for horses affected with cardiac disease. When referred to our practice, a complete cardiac evaluation will be conducted, and will include a physical examination to determine the heart rate and rhythm and to detect the presence of heart murmurs, a resting electrocardiogram (ECG) to examine the electrical activity of the heart, and sometimes radiographs (x-rays) to examine the size and shape of the heart. A complete cardiac ultrasound evaluation (echocardiogram) will also be performed to examine the valves, muscle, and heart function.

The echocardiogram uses deferent echocardiography techniques to examine the size, structure, and shape of the heart in motion. Color-flow ultrasound and other Doppler technologies are also used to evaluate speed and patterns of blood flow within the heart and large vessels connected to the heart such as the aorta and pulmonary artery. With digital image storage of the echocardiogram evaluation, the clinicians can easily review cases and follow their progression over time. Archiving of the cardiac examinations also allows the clinicians to share this information with referring veterinarians and to use the material for teaching purposes.

Other diagnostic tools available at the Equine Medical Center allow the clinicians to acquire continuous electrocardiographic recordings over one or more 24 hour periods. These tools are frequently used with critically ill patients for identification and monitoring of infrequent arrhythmias, quantifying the severity of an arrhythmia, or for evaluation of the efficacy of drug therapy.

In addition, horses are often referred to our institution for poor performance. Although musculoskeletal and respiratory system diseases are more common causes of reduced athletic ability, certain heart conditions can also lead to the development of exercise intolerance. In some cases, an exercise test is crucial for the detection of exercise-induced cardiovascular dysfunction. Electrocardiography using a radiotelemetry unit can be performed during a high-speed treadmill examination or an under saddle evaluation to determine the heart rhythm during exercise. A functional assessment of the heart can then be performed in the immediate post-exercise period with echocardiography.

Our medicine group strives to maintain the health of horses with heart disease as well as to achieve the best quality of life possible for them. Appointments for cardiology consultations are made on an outpatient basis. Emergency receiving is also available for patients with acute and more severe cardiac conditions requiring immediate attention. Please do not hesitate to call 703/771-6800 to schedule a consultation or to inquire about the cardiology services offered at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center.


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